YNW Melly Case: Defense Relies on a Single Witness in Murder Trial | Miami New Times


YNW Melly's Defense Team Relies on a Single Witness to Unravel Double-Murder Case

The defense team's sole witness in the double-murder trial of YNW Melly, a childhood friend, testified that the rapper cried when he learned two of his crew members had been killed.
YNW Melly and his collaborators leave a Broward County studio on October 26, 2018, shortly before two members of his rap crew were murdered.
YNW Melly and his collaborators leave a Broward County studio on October 26, 2018, shortly before two members of his rap crew were murdered. Broward County State Attorney's Office evidence
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After the Broward County State Attorney's Office spent weeks presenting forensic evidence and expert testimony in the double-murder trial of Jamell Demons, AKA YNW Melly, the defense team wrapped up its case in one day.

The rapper's fate now may rest on whether the jury believes the only witness the defense called — a friend and would-be alibi who claims he was with the star rapper at his house the morning of the murders.

Demons is accused of fatally shooting his two friends and rap crew members, Anthony Williams and Christopher Thomas Jr., in October 2018 and staging the incident to look like a drive-by shooting. Prosecutors claim Demons left a Fort Lauderdale-area music studio with Williams (AKA YNW Sakchaser) and Thomas (AKA YNW Juvy) in the early morning hours in a Jeep SUV and shot the two victims inside the vehicle on the side of a desolate Miramar road.

Another member of YNW Melly's rap crew, Cortlen Henry, drove up to Miramar Memorial Hospital in the Jeep with the bodies of Williams and Thomas, claiming they had been victims of a drive-by.

Surveillance footage shows Demons leaving the studio in the Jeep with the two victims earlier that morning.

But the defense's lone witness Adrian Davis, who had left the studio as a passenger in a red Mitsubishi, claims Demons later hopped into the car with him and that they wound up back at Demons' house. On July 18, Davis testified that he and Demons found out about the killings together at the home that morning.

"We all were crying," Davis said on the stand.

During cross-examination, prosecutor Kristine Bradley pressed Davis about Demons' whereabouts around the time of the shooting. Davis said he could not remember parts of the night and was sleeping on the car ride in the Mitsubishi — but he stood by the narrative that Demons was at home with him when they learned of the murders.

Davis said lead detective Mark Moretti never interviewed him throughout his investigation.

Prosecutors claim cellphone records, the angles at which the bullets struck the victims, and testimony from medical examiners show that the narrative about the drive-by shooting was fabricated.

For several hours, Bradley had Moretti read through text messages between Demons and Williams, which allegedly show a dispute was brewing between the two men over money and how Demons' mother was treating Williams.

Jurors saw an exchange in late August 2018 in which the prosecution claims Williams sent Demons a message saying, "Ain't gone lie, I'm tired of y'all getting y'all credit on shit."

Demons allegedly responded by declaring in part, "Ima pay u back for everything [you] did for me... Every idea all dat. We always gone be brothers."

"But I'll never hurt u bra," Demons said, according to Bradley's transcript.

The defense team maintains that Williams and Thomas were Demons' close friends and roommates and that there were no serious disputes between the men at the time of the murders. Davis and another witness who had been at the studio the night before the shooting testified that all was copacetic between the rap crew members.

Bradley closed out the prosecution's case by claiming that when Demons sent a brief, private Instagram message to a friend the day after the murders — saying "I did that" — he was referring to the shooting. (The defense challenged the authenticity of the message.)

After the defense rested, Judge John Murphy asked Demons, who was wearing a solid-white suit with a grey tie, if he was satisfied with his attorneys' performance, to which Demons responded, "Yes, sir."

"Is there any other witness that you wanted your attorneys to call or present to the jury?" the judge asked.

"No, sir," Demons said.

Closing arguments are set to begin on the morning of Thursday, July 20.

If convicted, Demons faces the death penalty on two counts of first-degree murder. Under Florida's newly passed death penalty law, the jury can recommend execution with a minimum 8-4 vote instead of the unanimous vote previously required.

Demons' codefendant, Cortlen Henry, AKA YNW Bortlen, faces charges of first-degree murder and accessory after the fact. He has yet to be tried and did not testify in Demons' case.
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